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Appreciating Whisky [Paperback]

Phillip Hills
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Book Description

7 Oct 2002

An accessible and jargon-free guide to understanding, learning how to taste and appreciating Scotch whisky, by the founder of the Scotch Malt Whisky Society

As with fine wines, there is a social cachet in being able to ‘appreciate’ a good Scotch. But how exactly do you learn this skill? Where can you acquire the knowledge to join this whisky-appreciating elite?

The answer is Appreciating Whisky. This beautifully illustrated book offers the reader detailed, structured tuition on how to develop his or her palate for whisky. Readers are first taken on a detailed tour of how whisky is produced, what each of its constituents and each of the stages of its manufacture bring to the final product. With this grounding, they are then introduced to the various chemical processes at work during distillation and maturation that give each whisky its distinct characteristics.

Using specific popular whiskies which readers are encouraged to have to hand as they work through the book, they are taught how to recognise what it is they are tasting and smelling, and how to describe this in the language of the experts. Armed with this knowledge, readers will ultimately be able to develop their own informed impressions of the whisky they drink, rather than receive them second-hand from other books.

Packed with diagrams and illustrations, this is the definitive guide for the aspiring whisky buff.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Collins; New edition edition (7 Oct 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0007147139
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007147137
  • Product Dimensions: 24.6 x 18.9 x 1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,233,001 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Amazon Review

According to Phillip Hills, it is only in the last couple of decades that distillers have woken up to the fact that some people drink whisky because they actually like it. This is a startling claim, but one that is supported by even a cursory survey of past whisky marketing practices. The stuff was flogged as a signifier of, variously, Scottishness (the wee dram) or social class (upper-class male tipple, usually with soda), but rarely if ever on the grounds of its taste. Those were the days when the only whisky available was blended. Even now that malts have made such a spectacular comeback, the old marketing habits persist in a new guise: whiskies of all types come accompanied by so-called tasting notes of the most dubious provenance and usefulness. Phillip Hills, one of the leading lights of the modern malt revival, will have none of this nonsense. The only way to tell good whisky from less good is to taste as many as possible, taste again and keep tasting until one has confidence in one's powers of discrimination. It will also help to have as deep a knowledge as possible of the chemistry, materials (five of these), manufacturing processes (five of these, too) and cultural history of whisky. All of these he has provided in Appreciating Whisky, an exhaustive--but far from exhausting--primer for the aspiring whisky connoisseur. Independent-minded, witty, erudite and on occasion iconoclastic or downright bawdy, Hills is clearly obsessed by whisky, which makes him the ideal guide to this complex and fascinating drink. This excellent book is likely to remain the most authoritative in its field for a long time. --Robin Davidson --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


Appreciating Whisky covers ground never before addressed by the literature of whisky … and does so lucidly, thoroughly, idiosyncratically and with
good humour. This book will join that small shelf of 'key sources' in my whisky library. It is essential reading for anyone who, in Phillip Hills' words, wishes to "climb by your own efforts from the slough of incomprehension into the dim light of understanding”.
Charlie Maclean, Whisky Magazine

Independent-minded, witty, erudite, and on occasion, iconoclastic and downright bawdy, Hills is clearly obsessed by whisky and this makes him the ideal guide to this complex and fascinating drink. This excellent book is likely to remain the most authoritative in its field for a long time.
Robin Davidson,

This book is wonderfully written … it educates in a very thorough and pleasing manner. Everything you need to know about appreciating whisky, technically and culturally, is here. Read it and you won't need another whisky book in your life.
Gordon Haggarty, The List magazine

In this swashbuckling book, Pip Hills lays bare all the secrets of whisky from its chemistry to its culture. He goes straight to the heart of the matter with admirable dispatch, revealing how the communion of barley, water, peat and oak creates a spirit of unique complexity. If there was ever a Master of Whisky course, this would be the primer to have at your elbow.
Derek Cooper, Food writer and broadcaster

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
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I really loved this book. Most of the whisky books content themselves by describing the productions processes, some history and brief descritpition of the distilleries and tasting notes of their malts. P.Hills is one of the best whisky expert and don't hesitate to mention the nasty and unpleasant practices of this industry. Whisky is not only a very fine drink, but also a huge business with Companies trying to generate more sales using some techniques described in this book!
This book covers all aspects of the whisky, from production to maturation and to tasting.
Fascinating, written in a very personal style, it was a very good suprise for me!
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 5.0 out of 5 stars  2 reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Invaluable Guide to the How and Why of Tasting Whisky. 14 April 2005
By mirasreviews - Published on
"Appreciating Whisky" is an excellent guide to doing just that, written for people who would like to understand how whisky is made, why it tastes as it does, and how to recognize and describe those flavors. Author Phillip Hills was a founding member of the Scotch Malt Whisky Society and writes extensively on Scotch, so the examples and tasting recommendations in this book are for Scotch whisky, although the principles of taste and production apply to all whiskies. "Appreciating Whisky" has two parts: The first 8 chapters provide knowledge necessary to make informed decisions about whiskies, specifically what it tastes like and why. The last 2 chapters explain how to taste whisky and describe some distilleries and their products for your consideration. Phillip Hills' prose is precise and witty throughout.

The book starts out with a lesson in the physiology of taste and goes on to describe the 15 flavors that you should be able to recognize in whisky and where they come from. Then we get a lesson in organic chemistry, as Hills explains the chemistry of whisky production, maturation, and the flavors discussed in the previous chapter. The properties, history, and origins of whisky's five materials -barley, water, yeast, peat, and wood- are described. The details of the five processes involved in whisky production -malting, mashing, brewing, distilling, maturing- are explained. Hills addresses the histories and characteristics of grain and blended whiskies as well as malts. And, finally, he explores how the social context -Scottish culture, corporate culture, and the drinker's culture- has influenced the taste, quality, and our perceptions of Scotch whisky, from its 15th century origins to the present.

Advice relevant to choosing and drinking whiskies is found in those chapters that address the question of why whisky tastes as it does. But the chapter on "Tasting Whisky" is a practical guide to whisky tasting that gets into the nitty gritty of what items you will need and what to do with them. The book's last chapter, "Appreciations", talks about 6 Scotch malt distilleries and their whiskies, as well as a grain whisky distillery, a blender, and some private bottlers. I think anyone who loves whisky but is not an expert on the subject will find "Appreciating Whisky" invaluable.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best introductory text to date, with a refreshing tell-it-like-it-is approach. 12 July 2006
By Joshua E. London - Published on
The book does exactly what it sets out to do - introduce readers to the appreciation of whisky - and provides a real education in the process. The chemistry and whisky production aspects are elucidated in an engaging and clear style, with tidbits that leave the reader with the distinct impression, sometimes made quite explicit by the author, that they are being informed of something ignored by other whisky books and lightly suppressed by the industry. His approach is at times iconoclastic, perhaps even contentious, as when he blithely explains why whiskies are generally at their peak at around 10 to 15 years of age and that people who spend large sums on older whiskies likely don't have any idea what they are talking about. Throughout he is happy to reveal trade "secrets" (many of which were unknown to me, and I have read dozens of mainstream books on this subject over the years) and never flinches from unmasking some bit of mystique or marketing as mere hokum (I learned a thing or two from this material as well). His approach to the flavor profiles of whisky is, like many of the other books out there, a tad complicated on first glance - but hang in there for a couple of pages, because his is actually much clearer and more useful than most. Sadly, this book is currently hard to find at all, much less at a decent price. One to keep an eye out for in used book shops, as it is the best introductory text on whisky to date, with a wonderfully refreshing tell-it-like-it-is approach.
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